One of the most elusive things to get in the art of polymer clay is the perfect, thin slice. You can use your regular blade to slice canes and skim a layer off a slab of mokume gane, but if your blade is too thick or dull you get drag lines, smearing, and a blurry image. Sharp tissue blades are a huge improvement, but even with a very skilled touch and a lot of patience, the blade wobbles and the slices come out wedge-shaped and uneven. It’s very easy to waste a lot of your precious cane with awkward and unusable slices. Scrap piles mount as you seek the elusive even slices. There are several slicer tools on the market, and each one does help make better slices. But the one that’s taken the market by storm recently is the LC Slicer.
Lucy Clay Tools is based in the Czech Republic and makes a line of high-end well-engineered polymer clay tools designed by Jiri Strunc for his daughter Lucy Štruncova, who fell in love with polymer clay when she was 11 years old. I’ve previously reviewed the Czextruder, a wonderful extruding tool that opens up whole new design areas in polymer clay. The LC Slicer is a robust slicing tool that allows you to make repeatable paper-thin slices of tiny canes and large slabs of polymer clay. Jiri sent me the LC Slicer so that I could play with it and share my experience with you. So let’s get started with my review of the LC Slicer polymer clay slicer from Lucy Clay Tools.
An Overview of the LC Slicer
The LC Slicer has a stationary base and a stationary vertical, upright assembly. On the base is a platform that glides back and forth on tracks that are very similar to drawer glides. The upright has a blade holder assembly that glides up and down, cutting with a guillotine action. The platform can glide back and forth, allowing the clay to be precisely placed under the cutting area of the blade assembly. In order to advance the clay to the blade in precise increments, the platform is moved by an assembly called the LC Ease. The clay is advanced by turning a knob on the LC Ease. The slicing assembly is controlled by hand (and gravity) and it doesn’t have any controlling mechanism, aside from a locking knob.
That’s a lot of words to say that the blade goes up and down, and the clay is advanced toward the blade by turning a knob.
The base of the LC Slicer is 9 7/8″ (25cm) wide and 8 3/4″ (22cm) deep. It is 10″ (25.4cm) high. The largest block of clay the LC Slicer can slice is 4 1/8″ (10.5mm) wide and 4″ (10cm) tall. The longest cane or slab of clay the LC Ease can accommodate is 3 1/4″ (8.25cm). If you need to slice a larger block of clay, you can remove the LC Ease to allow a maximum block width of 5 7/8″ (14.9cm). Without the LC Ease, the gliding platform can move freely and you can use its full length to hold a cane or slab, and that is 7 3/8″ (18.7cm) long. (Keep in mind that without the ease, it’s quite difficult to get even slices.)
The LC Slicer upright, handle, and the LC Ease are made of painted steel. The blade assembly, the base, and the gliding platform are made of a nifty material called “dibond” or “sandwich panel” that is a sandwich of aluminum with a plastic core. The bolts are stainless steel and the glides (which you rarely see) are galvanized metal. The blade is 7 7/8″ (20cm) long and is held in place with a bolt at each end. The blade appears to be stainless steel and is a surprising 1mm thick. The blade is beveled on the front edge, though, which causes slices of clay to roll away from the blade as it slices. The blade is very rigid and this means that it doesn’t warp during slicing, which would lead to crooked slices.
The LC Slicer arrives partly assembled. You merely remove any protective plastic coatings, then attach the upright section to the base. You will also apply the grid sticker to the gliding base. The LC Ease requires more assembly, but it only takes a few minutes. Assembly instructions are included, and the LC Ease is explained in a 18 step diagram. Really, it’s easy. But do apply the sticker to the base before you assemble the LC Ease. The blade comes already assembled into the blade control assembly.
Using the LC Slicer
- Make sure the blade is locked with the red knob in the back.
- Scroll the LC Ease back to give enough room to insert your cane or slab of polymer clay.
- Seat the cane or slab against the colored part of the LC Ease. I’ve found that clay slices best when it’s stuck tightly. It’s like the LC Ease not only advances the clay, but also gives it a bit of support so the clay doesn’t collapse under the pressure of the blade as much.
- Scroll the LC Ease forward to just short of the blade.
- Unlock the blade by loosening the red knob.
- Lift the blade with one hand and turn the knob of the LC Ease so that the edge of the clay is right where you want it. The first slice of clay is often a “waste” slice because you need to “square up” the face of the cane, making it parallel to the blade.
- Lower the blade assembly carefully, making sure your fingers are out of the way.
- With the blade down, remove the first slice.
- Raise the blade assembly and advance the LC Ease to the next point. Slice again and repeat.
And since videos are better than a whole bunch of words, here is a video of Jiri working with an earlier model of the LC Slicer and a prototype of the LC Ease. The mechanism of use is the same as the current model, however.
How Thin Can it Go?
Yes, that is the question of the day. How thin can it go? Well, let me tell you. I was a skeptic and assumed that a 1mm thick blade was not going to be able to make thin slices. I can happily say that I was wrong. Very. I easily made cane and mokume gane slices that were – are you ready for this – 0.015″ (0.3mm) thick. That is truly paper-thin. Here’s an example of how thin. See this lovely hexagonal cane (in blue, of course) being sliced. It was given to me by the stunningly talented Matt Kernan. (Psst…you can buy his canes, and he has tutorials!)
Slicing Soft Clay
There is no doubt that slicing soft clay canes and blocks can be a challenge. It’s always best to make sure your clay is fully rested before slicing. But some clay is just so soft. What can you do? If you’re slicing a stack, billet, or slab of mokume gane, it really helps to press the clay tightly to the metal “pusher” of the LC Ease. This will act as a support for the clay and allow you to make a better slice. But even so, it’s normal for the clay to “morph” and distort as the blade slices through it. This means that even though the LC Slicer itself is capable of making paper thin slices, this may not be possible if your clay is too soft. You will end up with “wobbly” slices that start out thick but end up fading away to nothing before the blade reaches the bottom. You can avoid some of this by going very slowly. There is a skill factor involved, but mostly you’ll have better results with firmer clay.
Slicing Hard Clay
If your clay is very firm (or if you’ve frozen your cane to make it firmer), the blade will have trouble being pushed through the clay. Be very cautious as you don’t want the LC Slicer to tip or slip because you’re pushing too hard. The instructions suggest adding a bit of lubricant to the back side of the blade when trying to push through hard clay or very large slabs.
The LC Slicer is not made for slicing baked canes, though. Use a different setup for that.
LC Slicer Safety
I’m a risk-taker and don’t usually heed safety advice. But this thing intimidated me at first. There is no passive safety protection or automatic blade guards. The blade does come with a guard for protection during storage, but that doesn’t help during use. You are just going to have to take care with this, like any other potentially dangerous tool. The blade is very, very sharp. I had to teach myself to stop trying to reach under the blade to adjust my cane. Don’t do that! Don’t ever, ever put your fingers under that blade. Not because you’re going to drop the blade (though you might). But because you’ll lift your hand when you pull it back, and you’ll scrape your knuckles on the blade, taking the skin right off of them. (Go ahead and cringe.)
Next thing, don’t clean the blade the normal way. Don’t take a baby wipe and run it along the blade, because the blade will cut through that baby wipe AND your fingers. I found that it worked best to rest the blade all the way down and then wipe it sideways. The manual suggests using a brush to clean the blade. Either way, remember that this is MUCH sharper than a regular blade and you have to respect it.
We all use sharp knives in our kitchen and yes, we have all sliced ourselves with them. I have been careless with my X-acto knife several times and was wearing band-aids for weeks. Caution and paying careful attention will go a long ways toward ensuring your safety with the LC Slicer. Just be careful. 🙂
Even though it should go without saying, don’t let kids use this. Even teenagers. This is a serious tool. Don’t ever carry the LC Slicer by the handle. You can carry it by the metal upright part. Also, Jiri suggests that you use a non-slip mat under the LC Slicer during use.
Where to Buy the LC Slicer
You can buy Lucy Clay Tools directly from the Lucy Clay Store. Click here for the EU store, and click here for the USA store. But if you prefer to deal with a supplier directly, there are partners all over the world. Not all the partners will carry a complete inventory, so you may find it better to order from Lucy Clay directly.
The LC Slicer comes with either fuchsia (pink) accents or teal. There is also a model called the LC Slicer Chrome that is very similar but it has a white LC Ease and there is a different handle design made of chrome.
What I Love About the LC Slicer
What do I love about the Lucy Slicer? There is so much to love about it, but the biggest thing is simply that it does exactly what you expect it to. You can make paper-thin slices, you can make thick slices. You can slice canes, you can slice mokume gane. It’s…well…a slicer. And it does it very, very well. You can’t argue that thin slices will make any clayer happy indeed.
But I love that it’s so well-engineered. It’s well-built, solid, with no rough edges or loose parts. It is satisfying in the same way that a high-end car is to drive. It’s just pure luxury. My husband remarked on the “great build quality”.
And I love the LC Ease. With just a turn of the knob, I can make thin, uniform slices over and over and over. This means there is very little waste. You can also cut multiple canes at the same time, ensuring that all the slices for a millefiore design are the same thickness.
What I Don’t Love About the LC Slicer
Nothing’s perfect and there is always room for improvement. And as such there are a few things that I found difficult or frustrating about working with the LC Slicer.
- I was lucky enough to receive my LC Slicer from the company for review purposes, but this slicer is going to cost you about $180, plus international shipping. That’s a lot of money for a hobby. But you have to remember that this is a luxury item. And just as a Jaguar is a high-end car that most of us aren’t going to buy, the LC Slicer isn’t for everyone. But if your spouse needs to know the right idea for a special birthday present, just share this article. The hint will be taken. 🙂 I can say that it IS worth the money. Totally. You will love it.
- The blade doesn’t automatically stay up and that really frustrated me at first. I thought it needed to have a catch or lock to lock the blade up. But now I realize that would be a bad idea. You’d just put your hand under the blade. Once I stopped trying to move the clay from UNDER the blade, this stopped bothering me.
- When the blade is down and you move the LC Ease, the blade scrapes against the surface of the platform. Well. Just don’t do that. Hold the blade up when you move the Ease. Or lock the blade in place (with the red knob) when you need to move the Ease large distances.
- And speaking of the LC Ease and distance, there is no quick release to move it large distances easily and quickly. You just have to turn the knob. A lot.
- Some people have told me that their blade doesn’t go all the way down to the platform and their clay isn’t being cut completely. I had that happen at first, too. But I learned how to adjust the blade. I’ll talk about that below.
- It’s easy to get confused and turn the knob on the LC Ease the wrong way and go backward when you want to go forward, or push the clay into the blade when you think you’re backing up. The Ease has such fine adjustments that when I wasn’t wearing my glasses, I couldn’t always see it moving and wouldn’t realize I was turning it the wrong way. This is user error, not a real issue, but know that you’re not alone if you have the same problem.
- The LC Ease is limited in how far forward it can go and will leave a 3/4″ (2cm) gap between the Ease and the blade. This means that your cane piece or clay slab needs to be at least an inch thick to be used in the LC Slicer. The company created the LC Angle Base to fill this gap and provide additional functionality.
- The LC Slicer is not really very portable and takes up a lot of space on your workbench. (They have created the LC Mini Slicer to fill this need, however. See below.)
User Mods with the LC Slicer
Being the crafty sort, I figured out a few ways to make the LC Slicer even more usable. I call them “user mods”. (That’s short for user modifications.)
I found that you can use acrylic blocks to fit in the gap between the LC Ease and the blade. I used the acrylic block that I use for making lentil beads along with another block I found in the scrapbooking section that is used with clear stamps. Together they come to 3/4″ and fill the gap perfectly. I glued them together with hot glue and applied a magnetic sheet to the back so that it “sticks” to the flat metal “pusher” of the ease. It works like a dream. (Note: although acrylic is 100% clay safe, any printing that is on the block may not be. Yes, I found out the hard way.) You could also use a 4″x4″ (10x10cm) block of wood, but I really love how the glassy smooth surface of the acrylic holds the clay slabs and keeps them in place during slicing.
Here’s that acrylic block in place, filling the space behind the blade so my mokume gane stack can be sliced. Look how thin that slice is. Magic! And it was a full sheet, too.
If your blade doesn’t go all the way to the bottom, leaving gaps, you can adjust this with a screwdriver. Facing the front of the LC Slicer, slightly loosen the screw-in bolt on either side of the blade. While pushing the blade assembly down against the gliding base, tighten both screws back up. Now your blade should not have any gaps. If you still have a gap, you can easily fill this with a piece of thin craft foam cut to fit.
The blade of the LC Slicer comes covered with a slip-on blade guard. While it does work perfectly well, I find that it’s difficult to put on because the blade is so sharp. I don’t like how it puts my hand right there under the blade while I’m struggling to get it on. So I used a pair of cutters and cut a notch that allows the blade to slide down into the guard more easily.
Although the LC Ease is marked with a ruler and a guide so you can measure how thick your slices are going to be, that doesn’t work when you are working with paper-thin increments. It would be nice to say “turn the knob four clicks” or something, but the knob moves smoothly and there is no way to tell how much you’ve moved it. So I used paint markers to mark the Ease and the knob so I have a better idea of how much I’ve turned the knob.
Do You Need the LC Slicer?
Alright, bottom line, should you buy this? If you are the type that loves to have every latest tool and gadget for your studio then yes, buy it! It’s wonderful and you’ll love it.
But if you only occasionally work with canes and never have a need for full-sheet slices from a clay slab, then the LC Slicer might be overkill. It doesn’t work for Sutton Slice or for mokume gane techniques where you must shave off the raised bits to create a design.
The LC Slicer really shines for reliably and repeatedly getting paper-thin slices from canes and slabs. So if you do a lot of millefiore veneers then this tool will be a godsend. The same goes for techniques where you repeatedly make a lot of precise or fine slices, such as ikat or bargello techniques. If you love making mokume gane in the style of Julie Picarello, then the LC Slicer is your magic tool. Or course, there are tons of ways to use this tool that haven’t been thought of yet! You don’t have to make thin slices. Thick ones work, too. I even used it to cut up Natasha beads without distortion. It worked great!
An area that opens up with this slicer is the ability to make thin slices of richly patterned, very large pattern blocks, such as can be made with the Czextruder. This way you could create repeatable tiling patterns to cover a large area, such as a serving tray.
If you used translucent clay to make a large square block, you could make translucent tiles that could be used to make a faux stained glass panel in a window. See an example in this video by Teresa Salgado.
What is the LC Mini Slicer?
You may have heard that the latest tool in the Lucy Tools line is a smaller, more portable slicer. How does it differ from the large LC Slicer? I have not used the LC Mini Slicer, but I have seen the videos and the company did share some schematics with me, so I’ll try to help clear up the confusion between the two.
The LC Mini Slicer is small, portable, and has a completely different way of working. It is made from the same dibond sandwich material as the LC Slicer, but the blade is held in an arm that works very much like an old-fashioned paper cutter that cuts with a lever action. The clay cane or slab is advanced by hand, on a platform that moves back and forth, but it doesn’t have the fine control that the LC Ease has. The LC Mini Slicer is not designed to cut large slabs of clay and doesn’t have the “reach” for it. It seems to be designed for use with canes. You can see a animated video of the LC Mini Slicer here. You can also see both the LC Slicer and the LC Mini Slicer in use in this video by Yonat Descalu. And here’s the LC Mini Slicer page on the Lucy Clay Tools website.
Next Up: The LC Angle Base!
This article has gone on long enough, but I still have to tell you about the next tool in the Lucy Clay Tools line. It’s an accessory for use with the LC Slicer called the LC Angle Base. So click forward to the next article and learn all about it. Plus, you’ll see lots of pictures of it in use.
Disclaimer: Thank you so very much to Jiri Strunc of Lucy Clay Tools for providing me with the LC Slicer so that I could tell you all about it. And for answering my many questions. Please know, I’m always going to be honest with you and tell you how I truly feel about something, whether regardless of how I received it. As my mother always taught me, honesty is the best policy!